Holidays in the Lake District

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With dreamy lakesides and woodland scenes that inspired Victorian artists and rugged hills that moved the first generation of British hill walkers to lace up their hiking boots, the Lake District is a timeless choice for a staycation in the UK.

The scenery is the star attraction on a Lake District staycation – and despite its name, you’ll get a lot of variety here. Long, lovely lakes – Windermere, Grasmere, Ullswater, Coniston Water and their smaller companions – have seduced visitors since the 19th century, while soaring above are some of the highest hills in England (Scafell Pike, Helvellyn and Skiddaw are all over 3,000ft tall).

Its pretty villages and lakeside towns, such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Bowness and Grasmere, offer quirky museums and cosy pubs where you can sample local grub. And, don't forget the Lake District's attractive coastline; you can take a break at Georgian Whitehaven or stroll along nearby breezy beaches such as St Bees.

Whether you're seeking a last-minute break for two or family staycation on a farm, you'll find something to suit you in the Lake District.     

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The Lake District lives up to its claim to be the UK's top spot for adventurous holidays, with enough activities to fill every day of a family holiday or a weekend break. But if you're looking for a more easy-going UK staycation, there are plenty of ways to chill and unwind too.

Best things to do on a weekend break

You'll be spoilt for a choice of things to do on and off the water on a weekend break in the Lake District. If you want to stay dry, rent a motor launch at Bowness Bay Marina for a peaceful, self-skippered cruise on Windermere. Wild swimmers, meanwhile, can take the plunge at smaller lakes like calm, sheltered Rydal Water – though a wetsuit will make the experience less of a chilly challenge.

Thrill-seekers, test your nerve on the Honister Slate Mine via ferrata, an exciting scramble over metal walkways bolted to steep cliffs, and if you're fond of a flutter there's weekend racing in summer at Cartmel Racecourse.

For something more relaxing, take in a play at the Theatre by the Lake at Keswick and enjoy an after-theatre dinner featuring Cumberland lamb and Morecambe Bay shrimps.

Best things to do for families

It's hard to beat the Lake District for a fun-filled UK family staycation. Outdoors and indoors, there are activities and attractions to please family members of all ages.

Watersports are of course a big deal in the Lake District. Rent canoes and paddleboards at Windermere Canoe Kayak, or take the family on a boating adventure on Ullswater aboard a sailing dinghy from Glenridding Activity Centre.

Young Harry Potter fans will like the historic Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway and Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, where they can imagine they're riding the Hogwarts Express on a steam train journey. For another retro experience – this time on the water – board one of the vintage vessels that have carried visitors on the Lakes for more than a century with Ullswater Steamers or Windermere Lake Cruises.

Best walks in the Lake District

The Lake District landscape is scribbled with hiking trails for all abilities. Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain, is great if you’re looking for a challenge. You’ll need to allow a full day (6-8 hours) for the climb, but you'll be rewarded by a breathtaking panorama of the whole Lake District. The classic trek to the top of Helvellyn (only 95ft lower than Scafell Pike) by way of steep-sided Striding Edge is another full-day adventure for fit walkers.

For a change of scenery, follow the Cumbria Coastal Way over sandy beaches, farmland and rocky shores. You'll need at least two weeks to complete this long-distance challenge, which continues all the way to the Scottish Borders, but can equally keep it simple and tackle a shorter section within the national park.

Literary lovers should consider Ullswater Way, a lovely 32km (20-mile) lakeside and woodland walk where boulders engraved with verses by poet Kathleen Raine are the main draw. A shorter walk is Words in the Woods – sententious sayings by sages including William Wordsworth and John Muir adorn marker posts along this easy stroll.

Best restaurants and bars in the Lake District

There's nothing like romping over hills and dales to give you an appetite – and on a Lake District staycation or a weekend break, you'll find plenty of places to satisfy your hunger pangs.

For a very special treat, L'Enclume in Cartmel earns its Michelin stars with inventive dishes such as salted lamb tongue glazed in garam or turbot steamed with shrimps and spruce. At Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside, you can expect a mind-bending dinner menu centred on locally raised and foraged ingredients such as Cumbrian pork ribeye with trompette mushrooms and apple.

For cheap family eats, try the Cartmel Village Shop, where sandwiches, bakes, soups, and toffee pudding will fill younger tummies. After a day at the beach, the Hazelmere Cafe in Grange-over-Sands is another budget-friendly family pleaser, serving dishes like Cumberland sausage and mash and potted Morecambe Bay shrimps.

Best things to do when it rains in the Lake District

There's plenty to do indoors on a rainy day in the Lake District. When it's wet outdoors, stay dry underwater at the Lakes Aquarium, with its transparent tunnel beneath the waters of Windermere and tanks filled with local and exotic creatures. Kids will also love the World of Beatrix Potter visitor attraction, which brings to life the charming animal stars of the much-loved children's author.

Petrolheads of all ages will love the Lakeland Motor Museum, with its fleet of classic vehicles including the legendary, record-breaking Bluebird, the iconic DeLorean – and, for younger family members, a collection of rather wonderful pedal cars.

For real ale lovers, a rainy day is the perfect excuse for a visit to the Jennings Brewery in Cockermouth and an extensive tasting session. And if that puts you in a poetic mood, round off a rainy day in the Lake District with a pilgrimage to William Wordsworth's home at Dove Cottage, crammed with mementoes of the poet who made the area such a popular holiday destination.  

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